Thomas Farrell managed to stagger from the hall to a seat in the front room. He sat slumped, bleeding and breathing heavily and falling in and out of consciousness.
Two of his five children, aged between seven and their early teens, witnessed the stabbing and shouted for their mother Gráinne. Mrs Farrell’s screams alerted neighbours and the other children also came running from various parts of the house.
Around four hours later, despite the efforts of the emergency ambulance crew and a medical team at St James’ Hospital, Mr Farrell was dead.
“The real tragedy is that today a woman has lost her husband and five children do not have a father. This is just a senseless loss of life,” said local councilor Vincent Jackson, summing up the feelings of neighbours stunned at the callousness of this murder.
Just before the fatal attack, Thomas Farrell, a driver for a removal company, was relaxing in the front room of his west Dublin home. It was 8.30pm on Wednesday. He looked out the window and spotted two young car thieves attempting to break into his 94-registered Peugeot hatchback parked in the driveway of the two-storey terraced house.
He went out and began remonstrating with them and then turned to walk back inside to the house, possibly warning them he was going to call the gardaí. Both men sprinted after him and as Mr Farrell stepped in to the hallway, one of the two men plunged what gardaí believe was something similar to a steak knife in to his back. He was stabbed just once but the knife is believed to have pierced his lung.
A number of neighbours of the family, who only recently moved to Ballyfermot, alerted by Mrs Farrell’s screams, ran towards the house. One of the neighbours, Angela Stafford, described yesterday walking into the house and seeing Mr Farrell as he sat, attempting to remain conscious. There was a lot of blood, she said.
Mrs Stafford added: “I just heard the woman screaming and went up to see what was wrong. I was told the Da was after getting stabbed. I went in the house. The chap was sitting in the chair. He was bleeding and was going in and out of consciousness.”
Emergency crews arrived and without bothering with a stretcher carried the badly injured father to the ambulance. He was taken to St James’ Hospital where a medical team was standing by to work on stabilising him.
By midnight, nearly four hours after being admitted, doctors were fairly convinced Mr Farrell was out of danger, that he was going to survive. But shortly before 2am, he lost his battle for life, possibly because of the severe damage to his lung.
As gardaí carried out a forensic examination of the scene, the family was being comforted by relatives.
The couple’s two girls attend St Michael’s Dominican Primary School in Ballyfermot. A staff member said the pair have been left “dumbstruck” by what happened to their father.
One local woman said: “I just feel so sorry for the family. God love that poor woman who has her kids now to look after ... it’s an awful thought that people cannot even protect their own home.”
Another added: “It’s shocking to think you can lose your life in such a callous way for just opening the front door. The car was only worth a few hundred euro. To kill someone over that is unbelievable.”
Mr Jackson, an independent representative on Dublin City Council, was at the scene yesterday morning. “I am absolutely horrified that a man of such a young age, in his early forties with a wife and family, could be the victim of such a senseless killing, for a motor car,” he said.